By Jennifer Jensen
I am often asked why I began home schooling so many years ago when my oldest was Kindergarten age. But the process which led me there actually began much earlier.
When I had my first child, my ideas about parenting changed . . . a lot. It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen. By the time my oldest was a few years old, my husband and I had made the decision we were going to be parents. Not the normal “Oh-yes,-we-have-kids-and-they’re-great” parents but the “We-will-be-held-responsible-if-we-mess-this-up” parents. I thought of all the times church leaders have told us to have Family Night, scripture study, family prayer and everything else, and I just did not feel comfortable brushing all that off and acting like everything would turn out fine with or without those things. All those times in the scriptures where parents are admonished about raising their children also had a lot of impact for me. Now I was responsible, I was accountable to God for teaching my children to follow Him. Of course they had their agency to choose, but I also had the responsibility to make sure they knew what the right choice was and how I felt about it.
The closer my son got to age five and attending school, the less I wanted to send him. I watched other families send their children to school all the time. I attended public school, everyone I knew attended school, but I did not want to send my son. Many thoughts kept going through my mind, “I won’t have any idea what he’s doing all day.” “How will I find out if he’s behaving?” “How can I make sure he has good friends?” “How can I ensure he’s learning ideas I agree with?” How can I let him be away from me for so long when he’s so little?” “How can I protect him when I have no idea what’s happening to him all day long?” “How can I make sure his faith in God is staying strong and he’s not being taught God isn’t real?” And many more. . . .
These are probably questions everyone has asked but they really weighed on my mind. Both my husband and I came from fairly dysfunctional homes and I did not want to repeat that cycle. I was determined to find a different way to raise my children than the one I knew. I constantly watched families with older children in our church and neighborhood. I practically spied on the families with the good kids. I approached mothers just to talk with them about how they raised their children. I would ask questions and listen to them explain their methods. I would even listen in if I overheard them talking about parenting to other people. I wanted to learn how to raise my children in a way that would keep them pure, good, faithful, happy, and, of course, brilliant. I discovered all kinds of good ideas from these families: how to discipline, how to set rules, how to teach reverence and keep them quiet in church, how important the little things are and how these little things make so much difference.
Then I met another really great family, but this one was unlike the others I had met before; they home schooled. Their kids were good, kind, musical, and smart and I thought the parents were crazy . . . at first. But then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. The closer my son inched towards school age, the more I thought about home schooling.
Even though this family had good kids, our neighbors and friends at church did not like their decision to home school. If I mentioned it, I was told it was not a good idea. I didn’t know what to do so I went to the library and checked out the few book I could find on home schooling and read them all. It made so much sense and seemed so right and yet all my neighbors and friends were telling me not to do it. My husband listened to the idea and gave it some thought. He is not one to care what other people think so the neighbors’ opinions didn’t bother him. One day we went home to his parent’s house for a visit. His mother had been cleaning and found an old report my husband did in 5th or 6th grade. It was the typical state report; he had even written to businesses and received pamphlets which he carefully pasted in a scrapbook for his report. It was many pages and very detailed. My husband spent some time looking through the scrapbook at all the work he had done. His reaction astonished me. He was actually angry about it, “What a waste of time!” was all he said. That was when he really took to the idea of home schooling. We saved that old scrapbook for a long time to remind us of one of the reasons for our decision to home school.
We also prayed about home schooling a lot! This was a big decision and I wanted to make sure God was with us on this one because, ultimately, no one else would be. Extended family, neighbors, friends; no one wanted us to do this and many tried to talk us out of it. They had every excuse in the book and if we hadn’t been so sure this is what God wanted for our family, we could not have done it. We had to make a decision to put God’s will first and not worry about what anyone else thought.
After reading everything and talking to the mother of the home schooling family I met, we launched our home schooling career. I told everyone I was just trying it for a year and if it didn’t work out, we would send our son to school for first grade. It quieted their concerns but really I had no intention of doing any such thing. I was determined that this would work. I decided to give it my all and then I would have no regrets whether it worked or not. That has probably been my motto all through my years of home schooling and parenting; No Regrets. I never want to come before God and have Him tell me I should have, or could have, done better. I want Him to know I tried my best.
Without really realizing it, I was very intentional in everything I did as a parent and as a home schooling mom. Raising good, solid, faithful children was a priority. I couldn’t look at my children and think of them as a side job or diversion. God gave me the blessing of being a mother for a reason and I had to find that reason and fulfill it no matter what. And thankfully, I have a husband who has been right there by my side through it all. We thought through the pros and cons of every decision. What would it accomplish? What would be the consequences? What would it teach our children? All the responsibility was on us but we knew it was a challenge we could face with God’s help.
I have found reasons why home schooling helped each of my children; and those reasons are different for each one. One of my sons was a slower reader. He didn’t really catch on till he was in third or fourth grade. He would become frustrated and tell me he was too dumb. I would tell him how smart he was, give him a hug, and we would just keep working at it. We tried everything and practiced everyday and he finally started to catch on. Now, as a young adult, he is my fastest reader and loves reading and learning. I have no doubt if he had attended school, he would have been put in the special ed. class and that label would have stuck. The little bit of self doubt and feelings of inferiority would have multiplied and might have remained with him through the rest of his schooling and even beyond. His life might be vastly different today if we, as his parents, had made other choices. But . . . I have no regrets.